I'll admit it. I love Facebook and Twitter. To a lesser degree, I also love LinkedIn, but not in the same way.
Why do I love these new fangled 21st century social networking websites? I'm glad you asked.
Let me give you some background. I was dragged into social networking kicking and screaming. It started with LinkedIn and I think I have my friend Kelly to blame for that. LinkedIn is a professional social networking site, where you post your resume, or as much of it as you are comfortable with posting, and you use your professional connections to build relationships with other professionals. Facebook came next. Tim is completely responsible getting me sucked into Facebook. And then there's Twitter. For the uninitiated, Twitter is a micro-blogging, text messaging, instant messaging site and I love it. Again, I give Tim the credit (or the blame depending on the day of the week).
What I love about social networking is the connection that it's allowed me to build with people I would have never otherwise known. More specifically, I love that it's allowed me to get to know a side of friends I've known for years that I would never have known otherwise.
Thanks to Facebook and Little Merry Sunshine (although more Facebook than Little Merry Sunshine), I have gotten to know quite a few people I went to high school and/or college with that I didn't know very well at either place.
Take my friend Beth. Although we were classmates and lived across the hall from each other freshman year, we ran in different circles at Lake Forest College. It was a small school and we knew each other, but we didn't really KNOW each other. Almost seventeen years later, we have reunited via Facebook, our blogs, and Beth's book Social Climbers and chat regularly. I've come to discover that we have more in common than just the fact that we both went to Lake Forest College. We both want to make the world better. We both want to be happy and love those around us. And we both despise Mean Girls (actual mean girls, not the movie).
Then there's Sonya. Again, we barely knew each other in college. I remember she was into horses; I remember taking a philosophy class with her; and I seem to recall that she went to a military boarding school. But I didn't know what an amazing mother she would make. I didn't know about her passion for her family and writing. But now, all these years later, thanks to Facebook, we have had an opportunity to get to know each other in a way we never could in College and I know that if we were closer geographically, we'd be good friends. I cherish the comments she leaves on Little Merry Sunshine because, in spite of the fact that we disagree politically, we both know that we agree on far more than separates us.
Barrie is another Forester I barely knew. I was her RA her freshman year in Deerpath, but after that I lost track of her. Until Facebook and now her blog, Barrie Briggs Spang The Designing Life, which recounts tales of her life as an interior designer. I would never have known about her incredible talents and passion for interior design, but for these incredible tools. I love getting to know her better each day.
John and I really became friends in junior high, although we lived a block apart and have known each other since first grade. In junior high, we walked home together, went to Washington DC together, and he even t-p'd my house. Ya, he was there when I fell in love with DC. We didn't hang out as much in high school, even though we only lived a few hundred feet from each other, and until we reconnected on Facebook, it was close to 20 years since we'd last spoken. When we started chatting on Facebook, it felt like it we had spoken just yesterday. When we finally saw each other last August, 20 years were erased in an instant.
Holly, Brian, and Ron were also junior high and high school friends I hadn't seen since high school, but thanks to Facebook, we know that we practically live around the corner from each other and hang out on a fairly regular basis. Holly was also on that incredible Washington DC trip in 8th grade. In fact, we were roommates, but like my friendship with John, our friendship faded a bit in high school (partly because she had moved away for 2 of the 4 years).
My cousins Elesha, Andrea, Alan, Robbie, Anna, Peter and I are in much more regular contact than we were in pre-Facebook days. I've seen Peter's new son, even though they live in New Orleans. I've watched Elesha's kids grow, although they're in Dallas. Most of us didn't grow up together like our parents did, so Facebook allows us to stay close even though we're all over the country.
I could go on all day with lists of friends I wouldn't hang out with now, but for reconnecting with them on Facebook.
But I haven't just reconnected with old friends. I've also made new friends. Susan is the perfect example. We met through Desi (another Forester) on Facebook. She writes the absolutely awesome Kittens Farting Rainbows. I mean, is there a better name for a blog? She is funny and smart and very much like me. We also chat via email and Twitter and Facebook and I know that if she lived in Chicago and not Memphis, I'd be running to her house to borrow a cup of sugar or shot of whiskey from time to time. But for Facebook, we'd never know each other.
I've heard some people say they wouldn't go back and reconnect with old friends because they prefer to remember friends as they were and not see them as they are today. They also worry that their friends are still living the lives of 10 or more years ago. I wholeheartedly disagree. I think that reflects more of a personal insecurity than anything else. Maybe those people aren't afraid their friends haven't evolved, but that they haven't personally grown and changed and don't want to have to look their own failings in the face. Maybe I'm wrong; that's just a theory.
I love learning about how the people who impacted my life so many years ago (and some I was too insecure to really get to know) have grown and changed and even stayed the same. These are the people who shaped my life and whose lives I shaped. We all shared similar experiences whether those experiences were a trip to Washington DC, band camp, the same freshman dorm , or a philosophy class during the time of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Some of them are people I loved and who loved me, whether those words were ever spoken or not.
Without fail, in every single instance, the friends I've reunited with via social networking have proven to be simply incredible people. Some I wish I'd gotten to know better when it was geographically easier, but I'm thrilled to be able to make up for lost time.
So if you're not taking advantage of these 21st century tools, why not? What have you got to lose?